A Catholic diocese in Italy issued an apology to upset parents after a bishop alleged Santa Claus is not real in front of children.
The Sicilian diocese apologized for the words of Bishop Antonio Stagliano, who told children that Santa was fictional.
Stagliano did not mean to disappoint the children and was trying to expound upon the "true meaning" of Christmas, said the Rev. Alessandro Paolino, the diocesan communications director.
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The bishop explained that St. Nicholas was a bishop who gave gifts to the poor and was persecuted by Roman officials, Paolino said.
Stagliano is also accused of alleging that not only does Santa "not exist," but that his red suit was an advertising tool invented by the Coca-Cola company, according to Italian news reports.
"First of all, on behalf of the bishop, I express my sorrow for this declaration which has created disappointment in the little ones, and want to specify that Monsignor Stagliano's intentions were quite different," Paolino posted to social media.
While he apologized, Paolino echoed Stagliano's criticism of the contemporary portrayal of Santa.
"We certainly must not demolish the imagination of children, but draw good examples from it that are positive for life," he wrote. "So Santa Claus is an effective image to convey the importance of giving, generosity, sharing. But when this image loses its meaning, you see Santa Claus aka consumerism, the desire to own, buy, buy and buy again, then you have to revalue it by giving it a new meaning."
Not everyone appreciated Paolino's apology, and many commented that Stagliano had interfered with family traditions and upset children who had already had their childhoods disrupted by COVID-19.
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"You are the demonstration that, when it comes to families, children and family education, you don't understand a thing," a person wrote.